A glance out the kitchen window

Cleaning up the kitchen after lunch, my eye was arrested by the sight of a lonely bluebird huddled on top of the nesting box in falling snow.2019_03_05__Backyard birding_0025
The temperature was 18 degrees, and I could only imagine that, despite his fluffed out feathers,  the little fellow was feeling a bit cold. Grabbing my camera, I snapped his picture, then soon discovered he wasn’t the only wind-blown bird in the backyard. At least one other bluebird, a downy woodpecker, and a robin were nearby. (Click to enlarge pictures.)

 

I’m looking forward to spring when sunshine and warm breezes will waft away the cold and snow. I have a feeling my feathered friends are just as eager for a change in the weather. How about you?

Thanks for visiting today. See you soon.
Trail Walker

 

Monday musings

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My calendar insists that today is March 4th. In sixteen short days, we will observe the spring equinox, the astronomical first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere; in other words, the first official day of spring! Here in Ohio, we will “spring forward” next weekend, turning our clocks an hour ahead for the beginning of DST or daylight saving time. Not that it really saves any time, and sometimes I wonder if I wouldn’t prefer leaving my clock on standard time all year round. Nevertheless, I will conform and save myself from the confusion of never arriving anywhere at the “right time.”

So there you have it; spring is almost upon us, but, oh, how I wish it felt (and looked) more like spring! That won’t happen here on the south shore of Lake Erie until sometime in April, if we’re lucky. But here’s some good news. The birds have begun their spring migration. And I saw undeniable proof this week: a redwinged blackbird appeared in my backyard. No, I didn’t capture his (or her) picture, but I saw it. Truly I did, and that made me smile. Maybe if I carve out time this week for a trail walk in the arboretum, I will discover some tiny snowdrops, another sure harbinger of spring. Meanwhile, a bevy of birds were active in my backyard today, and they were willing to pose for some photo opps. Here are a few that I captured through my kitchen window: First, the blue jays:

Here’s another junco, like the one at the top of the post. They don’t linger once spring arrives, so they will soon be on their way to their summer home. For that reason, they are sometimes called snowbirds.
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A cardinal and an American robin also made a visit. All of these birds, even the robin, live year round in our neighborhood. I’m not sure how  robins got the reputation for being one of the first signs of spring because they don’t deserve it. We see them all year round, although it is true that we see more in warmer weather. (Although I’ve never actually counted, so that could be inaccurate.)

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My favorite little birds have been hanging around recently. Despite their reputation as summer birds, they also appear in the winter. I was shocked the first time I saw a bluebird in the middle of winter. But here they are. (Click to enlarge).

The two on the right are males. I’m not positive about the one on the left with the more subdued color, but I think it is a male too. I do know they enjoy perching on top of the “rabbit” that watches over the garden.
And, as always, the “not-a-birds” have been busy scampering around the yard and up and down the trees, “stealing” food from the feeders. They can’t fly, but their agility is amazing as they climb the pole to get to the hopper feeder.

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That’s it for today’s bird count. You can be sure I will keep my eye out for that redwinged blackbird. Maybe I will hear him before I see him. That’s often the way it is with the redwings. Every spring, their loud, distinctive call announces their arrival. Come back soon to see what I find in the backyard or along the trail.

Thanks for stopping by today. I always enjoy your visits!
Trail Walker

Backyard bird gallery

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Male Eastern bluebird
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Red-breasted nuthatch

Weatherwise, February is usually a dreary month along the south shore of Lake Erie, but this year Valentine’s week brought a few birds to the backyard buffet that I hadn’t seen in a long while, most notably the beautiful male bluebird and the red-breasted nuthatch pictured above. To be honest, the birds I have been seeing most often when I look out my kitchen window are the ever-present pesky starlings. Starlings in small numbers are interesting birds with pretty feathers, but starlings never appear in small numbers. They invade! For that reason, I don’t usually take their picture more than once in a while when the backyard bird pickings are slim.

But this has been a good week, one that culminated on Friday with the appearance of a female bluebird and another appearance of a red-breasted nuthatch. The white-breasted nuthatch is a regular visitor, but the red-breasted variety is truly a rarity in our neighborhood. I’ve read that an irruption, or invasion, of red-breasted nuthatches is possibly due to a lack of spruce seeds farther north in the bird’s typical winter range. I’ve only seen a few so far this year, not nearly enough to count as an irruption, but when they appear in my backyard, I consider it to be an exciting event. Here are several that I have seen this week:

And here is another picture of the male bluebird as well as his mate, who showed up today. Contrary to what many people believe, some bluebirds do winter in Northeast Ohio, but that is unusual enough to create some excitement.

Here is a little gallery of the backyard birds I have seen this week. Click to enlarge…

And finally, my husband’s favorite, the smallest woodpecker, a downy.
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That’s the backyard bird gallery for this week. As the old-fashioned expression goes, I’m pleased as punch to be able to include a couple of reasonably rare birds among the current collection.

Thanks for visiting the backyard buffet with me.
See you soon to find out what next week will bring my way!
Trail Walker

Confused by the weather

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Since the beginning of the year, our weather has been unsettled, or maybe I should say unsettling. We’ve had snow, extreme cold, and now rain. Glancing out the kitchen window this morning, I noticed an empty hopper feeder. Slipping on my jacket and boots, I sloshed out and refilled the feeder. A short while later, I spotted this little critter on the tree stump enjoying a feast.

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As you can see, the squirrel is not on the hopper feeder, but on a nearby tree stump. It makes no difference to him, just as long as someone treks out to refill the food supply, and I imagine he is pleased to find his snack on the stump, instead of in the puddles that surround it.

Two weeks ago, the stump was covered with snow and the backyard looked like this.

Snowy Sunday

When Bob carried out the bucket of birdseed to refill the feeders, he had to sweep off the top of the stump before scattering the birdseed and pouring seed in the feeders. That was on January 27th.
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For a few days, a joyful crowd of sledders, had a grand time on the hill in Chagrin River Park (See my recent post “When the Snow Finally Fell”). Unfortunately, a few days later, during the first week of February, our temperatures topped out in the sixties, with 63 degrees on February 4th, and 61 degrees on February 7th. The snow melted, and the sledders vacated the now-barren sledding hill in the Park. Then, on February 9th, when the high temperature once again plummeted to 21 degrees, our brief taste of spring ended; the rains came; and the river almost reached flood stage, prompting warning calls from the authorities who keep a watch on such things.

Currently we are in a holding pattern. I can hear cars splashing through the puddles as they drive past our house, and I have no incentive whatsoever to take my camera to the park or the Arboretum for a trail walk. Who knows when spring will actually put in a real appearance. After all, it is still February. In Cleveland, we don’t hold out much hope for sunshine and flowers until at least April…or maybe sometime in May???

Cross your fingers fellow trail walkers.
And don’t put away your boots yet!
~Trail Walker

Too cold for trailwalking

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As I warned in my last post, right after spotting the red-bellied woodpecker above, our temperatures plummeted and for the past several days have hovered around zero (F). Yesterday the high temp here along the south shore of Lake Erie peaked at zero degrees Fahrenheit and went down from there. The “feels like” temp, given the wind chill, was many degrees lower. It was, as I had expected, painfully below my acceptable trail walking minimum of 23 degrees, so I resorted to backyard birding…through my kitchen window. Here are a few of the birds I saw this morning after we trudged out to refresh the feeders.

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Starlings arrive in large groups
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They are pesky, but, taken individually, can be cute.
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Sometimes they search under the feeders.
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A solitary tufted titmouse

That’s all the backyard birding I have time for right now. Maybe I can capture a few more later, but I wouldn’t blame them if they all found a warm spot to huddle together out of the wind.

Thanks for visiting. Hopefully I will soon be back on the trail. Our temperature is supposed to moderate in a day or two. I’m thankful for that prediction because I have had enough of this worrisome sub-zero stuff. I’m fully aware that, while I am warm and cozy, as I watch the birds through my kitchen window, many others aren’t so fortunate. Some have to search out shelters for protection. They need our prayers when the weather conditions become treacherous, something that seems to happen with increasing frequency in recent months, or maybe I should say years.

Stay safe, fellow bloggers, and give thanks for your safety.
Trail Walker

Is it vacant now? A bluebird catastrophe

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A story I didn’t have the heart to tell until now.

Mr. Bluebird has just peeked into the nesting box. Perched on top, Mrs. B. is wondering if the box is available. “Have the sparrows left?” she queries. “Can we move in?” (That’s my guess at their conversation based on their actions and the expressions on their tiny faces.)

 

A few months earlier, when summer was at its peak, Mrs. B, with a little help from her mate, had diligently built a nest in this very same box. When the nest was ready, the time had come. She laid three tiny eggs in her carefully constructed nest, and both parents went to work keeping watch over their brood. Day after day, she tended the nest, making occasional quick trips outside to pick up more twigs and a grub or two, carrying them back to the nest in her beak. Sometimes Mr. Bluebird would bring her a grub or a worm, although he mostly patrolled the neighborhood, doing his best to keep the house sparrows and blue jays away from the little family.

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Sadly, his best wasn’t good enough. One morning, when Momma and Poppa were both briefly out of the nest, an intruder got inside. How do I know that? I know because I had been keeping a close eye on the nest from my nearby kitchen window. Seeing the pair of beautiful blue birds, tending the nest so carefully, brought me great joy.

I checked on them every time I passed by the window, and then, one morning, tragedy struck. I glanced out the window and was horrified to see a house sparrow sitting on top of the nesting box, and the bluebirds were nowhere to be seen. I checked the nest often for the next few days. Occasionally I spotted Mr. Bluebird, perched on a nearby branch or on one of the feeders, his eyes scanning the neighborhood, but the momma was nowhere in sight. The house sparrows were around though, entering and leaving the nesting box they had quickly claimed as their own.

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Finally, after a few days, we opened the box and discovered three tiny eggs, with a hole pecked in each one. We sadly cleaned out the box, hoping an empty box would discourage the sparrows. It did, but except for a very rare visit to the neighborhood, the bluebirds were gone. They didn’t return to the nest.

Then one day, months later, at the end of October, I was excited to see a bluebird, not just one, but a pair of bluebirds, in the backyard. I began to keep a close eye on the nest, as I had months earlier, and eventually, as I watched, Mr. Bluebird entered the nest, not once, but several times. And one of those times, a house sparrow flew up and tried to enter the nesting box when the bluebird was already inside. With a flurry of feathers and much beating of wings, the brave bluebird repelled the invader, as I stood at the window and cheered.

 

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Mr. Bluebird defending the nest!

What will happen next? I don’t know. I’m rooting for Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird, but the sparrows are persistent. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

Please keep your fingers crossed too.
I’ll let you know what happens!
Trail Walker

Simply backyard birding

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This week has been hot and steamy, absolutely my least favorite kind of weather; however, yesterday afternoon a storm blew through. The temperature dropped and the steamy humidity dissipated. Yay!  Today has been blissfully cool. Exactly the kind of weather I enjoy! Apparently the birds like it too because they were a lot more active this morning.

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Lady hummer enjoying the flowers

I was delighted to see her enjoying the bright colors because that is what I most enjoy about summer. It’s definitely not the heat, but the color that I like most about this season, and apparently the hummers like it too. All too soon they will head south on their annual migration, and they will be sorely missed. I didn’t get a very sharp picture of her flitting in the flowers, but she also appreciated the feeders I had filled with fresh sugar water yesterday.

One of the surprising sights this morning was the downy woodpecker, surprising because he was investigating the empty bluebird box.  To my delight, early in the summer, a pair of bluebirds had moved into the box, and I spent many hours watching them. They gave me a a great deal of joy, but suddenly one day they were gone. Sadly they have not returned, and I discovered that the house sparrows had entered the nesting box and destroyed their three little eggs. I was a long time getting over that shock, and I didn’t even want to post any of the many pictures I had taken of the bluebirds. Maybe some day, but not yet. But today here is the male downy woodpecker, checking out the nest. I wonder if he is looking for a home for the colder days that are coming? Maybe we will need another box if the bluebirds return next summer.

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Looking in the door
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It was a tight squeeze, but he got inside.
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A competitor or a mate?

I didn’t have much more time for backyard birding this morning, but I captured three more shots: a little house finch and two shots of a chubby red-bellied woodpecker feasting on the suet cakes.

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Thanks for visiting.
That’s all for now, but I’ll post more pictures on another day.
Trail Walker

Darn spring cleaning!

Sometime things around the house require my attention. I try not to let that happen too often, but when it does, and I begin to trip over the dust bunnies, something has to be done about them. That has happened to me recently. Consequently, I haven’t been out on the trail with my camera very often. Sad, but true! However, I have managed a few trail walks recently and some backyard birding, so I finally have something to post on my blog. Today. I’m sharing a few shots taken through my kitchen window. Let me know what you think.

To my delight, the bluebirds have been in and out of the nesting box multiple times per day. They make me smile on a regular basis! The blue jays and red-bellied woodpeckers are also faithful visitor to the seed cylinders and suet.

And then, on occasion, the pileated woodpeckers will swoop in for a meal.
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The last picture made me hold my breath until I actually got the shot. Never before has one of the big ones landed that low in the yard, and I was afraid she would fly away before I grabbed a shot or two. My hubby had planted some colorful flowers in a plastic tray on top of one of the stumps just outside the kitchen window, and they apparently attracted her eye. Since this visitor doesn’t have a red mustache to match the red crest, I’m pretty sure it’s the female. Both the male and female are nesting somewhere in our neighborhood. It’s exciting to have both stop in at the same time.

That’s all I have time for today. Thanks for visiting.
Come back soon!
~Trail Walker

Morning Surprises!

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You can see from the pictures above that “someone” flipped open the hopper feeder, helped him or herself to all the birdseed inside, and left behind a puzzled and confused squirrel. The first time this happened, I was surprised, but now it happens almost daily. I’m actually surprised when it doesn’t happen. If I looked out the kitchen window in the morning to see birds feasting on the seed I had poured into the feeder yesterday afternoon, that would be the surprise.  At first, I blamed the deer herd that makes nightly excursions up the hill from Chagrin River Park. I assumed they were the four legged marauders that had raided the Back Yard Buffet, but I’ve changed my mind about the likely culprits. It must be raccoons! Our thief can even twist open the plastic twist-ties that I use to secure the latch of the suet feeder. What other animal has the dexterity to lift the awkward, heavy lid of the hopper feeder and untwist the plastic ties and carry off the suet? What really surprised me this morning was seeing the squirrel standing inside the feeder. I know he’s not the thief because he and other members of his clan feast at the buffet all day long. They aren’t out and about after dark, and this morning he seemed to be perplexed that all the food was gone. He’s not happy and neither am I. I’m fighting a losing battle. The birds (and squirrels) are the real losers…and my bird-feeding budget of course!

The second surprise that appeared in the back yard buffet this morning was a welcome one. Flickers are rare visitors. I see them in the park occasionally but never right outside the kitchen window. This one found his (or her) breakfast on the ground underneath the hopper feeder, and was a very happy bird.  I was happy too because I thoroughly enjoyed the unexpected photoshoot! (Click on any picture to enlarge them.)

Thanks for stopping by the back yard buffet this morning.
See you soon!

~Trail Walker

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